Rome


Rome- So much to see and do. History comes alive when visiting this amazing city.Here are a few pictures from a recent trip to Rome. More will be added–Stay tuned!

Spring Flowers

It must be Spring!
There are flowers blooming, and the weather is unusually warm– But there is a snow storm in the forecast! Yes it must be spring!

Patagonia and Penguins


Click on the penguins to see the gallery.
Have you ever been to the end of the Americas?– check out Punta Arenas Chile.
Punta Arenas Chile is located in Northern Patagonia, it is the Southernmost city in the World, and a very interesting city to visit on the way to Antarctica. Magellan penguins can also be seen nearby in Otway Sound.
The penguins are native to the Strait of Magellan in the cool climate of southern Chile, and each spring hundreds of Magellanic Penguins come home to their birth place to breed. Nests are built in earthen burrows and usually two eggs are laid. Incubation lasts 39–42 days, a task which the parents share in 10-15 day shifts. The chicks are cared for by both parents for 29 days and are fed every two to three days. Normally, both are raised through adulthood, though occasionally only one chick is raised.

Magellanic Penguins mate with the same partner year after year. The male reclaims his burrow from the previous year and waits to reconnect with his female partner. The females are able to recognize their mates through their call alone. They are able to make quite a racket when they want to!

Millions of these penguins still live on the coasts of Argentina and Chile, but the species is classified as a “threatened species”, primarily due to the vulnerability of large breeding colonies to oil spills, which kill 20,000 adults and 22,000 juveniles every year off the coast of Argentina. (Wikipedia)

Goats who Climb Trees


7 Incredible Natural Phenomena you’ve never seen
Published on 11/16/2007 under Weird Science –

“Morocco’s Climbing Goats
Goats on trees are found mostly only in Morocco. The goats climb them because they like to eat the fruit of the argan tree, which is similar to an olive. Farmers actually follow the herds of goats as they move from tree to tree. Not because it is so strange to see goats in trees and the farmers like to point and stare, but because the fruit of the tree has a nut inside, which the goats can’t digest, so they spit it up or excrete it which the farmers collect. The nut contains 1-3 kernels, which can be ground to make argan oil used in cooking and cosmetics. This oil has been collected by the people of the region for hundreds of years, but like many wild and useful things these days, the argan tree is slowly disappearing due to over-harvesting for the tree’s wood and overgrazing by goats.

As a result a group of people and organizations have banded together to try to save the tree. To do so one of the primary locations where the trees grow has been declared a biosphere preserve. It was also decided that by making the world aware of the oil, it’s great taste and supposed anti-aging properties, would create a demand for it. However, the people who planned to market the oil could not envision people wanting to put an oil on their food or their face that was collected from goat excrement. As a result, a campaign is being led to ban grazing on the trees by goats during certain parts of the year to allow the fruit to ripen and fall off on its own. The fruit is then collected and turned into oil by oil cooperatives.”

I was just there, and the coop seem to be working. Most argan sold today is produced by a Berber women’s cooperative that shares the profits among the local women earning money which provides health and education to them and the whole community. The cooperative has established an ecosystem reforestation project so that the supply of argan oil will not run out and the income that is currently supporting the women will not disappear. The goats are kept out of the trees from May to August thus the trees are looking much healthier than the pictures of trees taken in 2007.

According to the Department of Water and Forests, Argan oil provides income for 3 million people in the southern part of the kingdom. The oil provides a total of 20 million workdays per year. Its operation is an income-generating activity and has always had a socio-economic function.

Co-sponsored by the Social Development Agency (SDA) with the support of the European Union, the UCFA (Union des Cooperatives des Femmes de l’Arganeraie) is the largest union of cooperatives for argan in Morocco. It comprises twenty-two cooperatives that are found everywhere in the region (e.g., Coopérative Al Amal, Coopérative Amalou N’Touyag, Coopérative Tissaliwine, Coopérative ArganSense, Coopérative Maouriga). These women come together to be better organized and thus guarantee a fair income through cooperatives, allowing them a better living environment.

Argan oil is an oil produced from the kernels of the argan tree, endemic to Morocco, that is valued for its nutritive, cosmetic and numerous medicinal properties. The tree, a relict species from the Tertiary age, is extremely well adapted to drought and other environmentally difficult conditions of southwestern Morocco. The species Argania once covered North Africa and is now endangered and under protection of UNESCO. The Argan tree grows wild in semi-desert soil, its deep root system helping to protect against soil erosion and the northern advance of the Sahara. This biosphere reserve, the Arganeraie Biosphere Reserve, covers a vast intramontane plain of more than 2,560,000 hectares, bordered by the High Atlas and Little Atlas Mountains and open to the Atlantic in the west. Argan oil remains one of the rarest oils in the world due to the small and very specific growing areas.

Before modern times, the Berbers (also known as the Amazighs) of Morocco would collect undigested Argan pits from the waste of goats which climb the trees to eat their fruit. “Amlou” a thick brown paste with a consistency similar to peanut butter is produced by stone grinding roasted almond and Argan oil and is considered a favorite local bread dip. However, the oil used in cosmetic and culinary products available for sale today has most likely been harvested directly from the tree and processed with machines. The unroasted oil is traditionally used as a treatment for skin diseases, and has found favour with the cosmetics industry.

An Evening in Florence

Florence is a fascinating city. Just a short walk one evening in October yielded these beautiful pictures. Walking along the Roman road and crossing the River Arno on the Pointe Vecchio is a walk back into history. The bridge was built in 1345, and is the oldest surviving bridge in Florence. The site that it fords dates back to Roman times. On the bridge are numerous shops, which formerly housed the blacksmiths tanners and butchers, and since replaced by jewelers and goldsmiths. Florentines and Tourist enjoy the walk and the views.

Google Maps

I have so much fun geotagging my pictures and then, from Lightroom, placing the locations on the Google map. I use a Nikon GP-1 that attaches to my Nikon D3 (or D300). As we travel it is interesting to note our longitude and latitude as well as the altitude. Sometime at sea level it registers as a minus elevation!
The GP-1 also elicits much interest from other travelers, as they wonder what is that little unit on the camera accessory shoe? The unit can also be mounted on the camera strap with the included strap adapter mount. A cable from the unit connects to the camera through the 10 pin terminal. GPS data will be recorded when the GP-1 is able to detect three or more satellites. The data is recorded in the metadata of each photograph, and can be seen on the camera display immediately.
I wish I had had the unit for trips taken years ago so my map would be more complete!
No matter what kind of camera you have this is a great addition.


View My Travels in a larger map

Photoshop CS5 with Lesa Snider

I’ve been watching Creative Live (creativelive.com) with Lesa Snider: This great live training entitled Photoshop CS5 runs for 4 days this week from 10:00 to 5:00. The course is free this week, or buy it this week only for $79. Lesa is a great teacher, and her enthusiasm is catching. She relates so well to the live audience as well as the questions coming in from the web. She is the author of Photoshop CS5 The Missing Manual as well as other books. Much Thanks to B&H for cosponsoring this wonderful program. Tune is this week before it is over!

Website: http://photolesa.com Twitter: @PhotoLesa Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/photolesa http://www.istockphoto.com/creativelive.php

News from last weeks Photoshop World plus!

Winston Hendrickson, VP of Adobe Digital Imaging, introduces the Adobe Carousel

Bryan Hughes, Photoshop Senior Product Manager, is the latest inductee into the Photoshop Hall of Fame ( he was instrumental in the JDI additions to CS5)

Scott Kelby releases new book; Light It, Shoot It, Retouch It: Learn Step by Step How to Go from Empty Studio to Finished Image

Nik Software releasing their major update to their Photoshop (and Lightroom) plug-in ”Color Efex Pro 4″ and OnOne Software releasing their “Perfect Photo Suite 6″ with lots of big updates. More on both of these coming soon, but everybody that saw either was over-the-top about them.

Latest News from Scottkelby blog: http://www.scottkelby.com/
Photoshop World Vegas Recap (in Two Minutes or Less)

And something from that “Other” company!
At Microsoft’s Build conference on Tuesday, the company showed off its radically different Windows 8 operating system.
Developed for use on tablets and touch interfaces, as well as desktop PCs, Windows 8’s user interface resembles that of the company’s smartphone platform, Windows Phone 7. The new Windows 8 will also rely more heavily on the cloud than previous versions of Windows.

Prayer for September 11th

Dear Lord, loving Creator of us all, we remember with
great sadness those whose lives were taken on September 11,
2001. We hold up to you the victims’ families that they may
know, despite their pain, that they can find solace in your
loving presence. Help them bring their hurting hearts to you, realizing that your everlasting arms
can bear them up and that they cannot be separated from your abiding love.
Please assure us that even though we cannot understand such horrible deeds, you can bring
good out of evil, justice out of injustice and righteousness out of unrighteousness.
Therefore, confessing our human weaknesses, our grief and our struggles to make sense out of
this world, we cry out with the psalmist: “Rise up, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand; do not forget
the oppressed (Psalm 10:12, NRSV). Strengthen our hearts, this day and every day.
Amen.

A popular tourist site near Barcelona

Have you ever visited Barcelona? A very interesting side trip is to the Mountain–The serrated mountain- Montserrat. The Monastery is sheltered and almost hidden in the rocks.

Santa Maria de Montserrat is a Benedictine abbey located on the mountain of Montserrat, in Monistrol de Montserrat, in Catalonia, Spain.The Virgin of Montserrat is a statue of the Virgin Mary and infant Christ venerated at the Santa Maria de Montserrat monastery in the Montserrat mountain in Catalonia. It is one of the black Madonnas of Europe, hence its familiar Catalan name, la Moreneta (“The little dark-skinned one”). Believed by some to have been carved in Jerusalem in the early days of the Church, it is more likely a Romanesque sculpture in wood from the late 12th century.
The monastery is Catalonia’s most important religious retreat and groups of young people from Barcelona and all over Catalonia make overnight hikes at least once in their lives to watch the sunrise from the heights of Montserrat.

Legend has it that the Benedictine monks could not move the statue to construct their monastery, choosing to instead build around it. The statue’s sanctuary is located at the rear of the chapel, where an altar of gold surrounds the icon, and is now a site of pilgrimage.

Upon his recovery from battle wounds, Ignatius of Loyola visited the Benedictine monastery of Montserrat (March 25, 1522), where he laid down his military accouterments before the image. Then he led a period of asceticism before later founding the Society of Jesus.

On September 11, 1844, Pope Leo XIII declared the virgin of Montserrat patroness of Catalonia (Saint George is another patron saint.)
Santa Maria de Montserrat

Do you know what is the State Bird of New Mexico?

The roadrunner was designated the official state bird of New Mexico in 1949. Also called the chaparral bird, the roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) meaning “Californian Earth-cuckoo,” is a long-legged bird in the cuckoo family, Cuculidae. and inhabits desert and shrubby country in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico.

Although a roadrunner is capable of flight, it spends most of the time on the ground, running at speeds of 15 miles per hour (or more) to catch its prey (insects, small reptiles, rodents, tarantulas, scorpions and small birds). The Hopi and Pueblo Indian tribes believed that the roadrunner provided protection against evil spirits.

The name roadrunner comes from the bird’s habit of racing down roads in front of moving vehicles and then darting to safety in the brush.
Habitat

The Greater Roadrunner nests on a platform of sticks low in a cactus or a bush and lays 3–6 eggs, which hatch in 20 days. The chicks fledge in another 18 days. Pairs may occasionally rear a second brood.

Greater Roadrunners measure 61 cm (2 feet) in length, about half of which is tail. They have long, wobbly legs and a slender, pointed bill. The upper body is mostly brown with black streaks and sometimes pink spots. The neck and upper breast are white or pale brown with dark brown streaks, and the belly is white. A crest of brown feathers sticks up on the head, and a bare patch of orange and blue skin lies behind each eye; the blue is replaced by white in adult males (except the blue adjacent to the eye), and the orange (to the rear) is often hidden by feathers.

This bird walks around rapidly, running down prey. It mainly feeds on insects, fruit and seeds with the addition of small reptiles, including snakes, small mammals, spiders, scorpions, centipedes, millipedes, small birds, their eggs, and carrion, including roadkills. It kills larger prey with a blow from the beak—hitting the base of the neck of small mammals—or by holding it in the beak and beating it against a rock. Two roadrunners sometimes attack a relatively big snake cooperatively.

Although capable of weak flight, it spends most of its time on the ground, and can run at speeds of up to 26 miles per hour (42 km/h). This is the fastest running speed ever clocked for flying birds, although it is not nearly as fast as the flightless Ostrich.

A visit to North Carolina–Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park and Halifax Resolves (1776)

Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park is designed to give visitors an unforgettable up-close experience with over 1,500 ducks, geese, swans, and other exotic birds from around the world.

Multinational Aviary
Open to the public since October 2006, the 18-acre facility features large, walk- through aviaries displaying birds from South America, North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. Tranquil gardens and lush natural areas enhance the beauty of the birds on exhibit.
Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park and Eco-Center in Scotland Neck NC is dedicated to educating people about the importance of conservation and research, focusing on waterfowl and wetland habitats.
The opening of Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park in 2006 emerged from the legacy of one man—Mike Lubbock, affectionately known to many as the Waterfowl Man.

The moniker is well deserved. Mike Lubbock is considered by many avian biologists to be the most intuitive and prolific waterfowl aviculturalist in the world. From his early work in England at the Wildfowl Trust to his permanent move to America, where he founded Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Center in 1989, Milke Lubbock was single-minded in his mission to unlock the mysteries of breeding birds.

His landmark work resulted in 17 World First Breeding Awards, plus 15 awards for first breedings in North America—an unsurpassed accomplishment. Most importantly, his primary focus in breeding waterfowl is to assure the survival of those species that are disappearing in the wild, and those in peril even in managed collections around the world. Several prominent naturalists claim that without the dedicated efforts of Mike Lubbock and the staff at Sylvan Heights, a number of waterfowl species would already be extinct today. A few of those are shown here today. It is a wonderful place to visit, but next time I visit it will not be in July!

Halifax County Water tank

Here is something for all you Revolutionary War Buffs that I discovered on this trip to NC and if I ever knew it in school I have forgotten.

The Halifax Resolves, so-named because the North Carolina Provincial Congress met in the town of Halifax, were part of a movement in the colonies in which advocates of separation from Great Britain sought to mobilize public support for a declaration of independence. The primary impediment to declaring independence was that many delegates to the Second Continental Congress were not authorized by their home governments to take any action that would lead to independence. Advocates of independence therefore sought to revise the instructions of each congressional delegation and remove any restrictions regarding a declaration of independence.

The Halifax Resolves empowered North Carolina’s delegates to the Second Continental Congress—Joseph Hewes, William Hooper, and John Penn—to join with those from other colonies to declare independence from British rule. The 83 delegates present at the Fourth Provincial Congress unanimously adopted the resolves, which also encouraged delegates from all the colonies to the Continental Congress to declare independence. North Carolina became the first colony to explicitly permit their delegates to vote in favor of independence.

Although the Halifax Resolves permitted the North Carolina delegation to join in a declaration of independence, they stopped short of instructing North Carolina’s delegates to introduce a resolution of independence in Congress. This step was taken by the colony of Virginia the following month, with the adoption of the Lee resolution by the Virginia Convention. Two months later, the Second Continental Congress issued the United States Declaration of Independence.

Every year, on April 12, the Historic Halifax State Historic Site celebrates Halifax Day. Interpreters in period costumes guide tours of historic buildings, and demonstrate historic crafts and other colonial activities. Occasionally, reenactors portray Revolutionary era soldiers and demonstrate use of historic weapons during the Halifax Day events.